Agile Communicator – Agile communicating is as much about the content, the what of the message as it is about the how of the process. This means adjusting the pace, style and message to the audience whether communicating one-on-one or one-to-many.
As a manager, the onus is on you to help those within your department to communicate. While many might have a hard time talking about work-related issues, some may be hard-pressed to approach a discussion about conflicts. Employees of this grain need to have things set up so that they don’t feel self-conscious about coming out with their grievances or concerns. If left unaddressed, these concerns could grow into bigger issues that might impact the entire team and its overall productivity.
1. Go On A Listening Tour
We recommend that managers go on a listening tour armed with questions (five or six maximum) that specifically ask for feedback on what is going well, what is going less than well and/or what they can do more or less of. What is key is to really listen and capture a list of themes that they can later report back along with the actions they intend to take to improve the situation. Positive changes will promote more openness.
2. Set Healthy Boundaries
All healthy relationships have healthy boundaries. During this time of working remotely, it will be especially important for managers and leaders to not only encourage their teams to establish healthy and sustainable boundaries, but to model them as well.
3. Prove It’s Worthwhile To Speak Out
The best way to get employees to speak up is to prove that what they say is a valuable piece of your leadership strategy. It’s that simple. Don’t talk about it, prove it. Speaking up takes courage, so showing your team it won’t backfire is a great way to build relationships and create positive change. When they see you taking their concerns seriously, they will share more.
4. Avoid Making Them Feel Wrong
If you want your people to share concerns and give feedback, avoid making them feel wrong or smacked down by your response. Avoid the phrase, “Yes, but…” because that negates their input. Don’t argue feedback. Instead, thank them for their input and learn more. Ask questions when you don’t understand or agree. Invite them to generate solutions to their problems and explore ways to address their ideas.
5. Embrace A Culture Of Seeking Feedback
The managers of the future are those that actively seek feedback. Unconsciously, this showcases humility on the part of the manager and elevates the status of the team member from whom feedback is sought. With this container of safety established, it becomes easier for the manager to deepen the conversation to seek out grievances, mismatches, expectations or alternatively, ideas and aspirations.
6. Learn To Listen Without Judgment
If managers want to encourage their teams to open up and be more transparent about concerns and what truly keeps their minds busy, then managers need to learn to listen without judgment and to resist the urge of being addicted to having all the answers. When employees and team members feel a genuine interest in their opinions and trust that they will not be judged, the rest will naturally evolve.
7. Don’t Accept The Obvious
The obvious answers are often superficial. It’s what the brain produces first—e.g., “All good” or “I’m fine” when you ask, “How are you?” If you consistently express interest and concern beyond these first superficial answers and show people that it is safe to open up by asking, “And what else?,” “What is fine” or “Would you tell me if you were not OK?,” people will eventually share more.
8. Promote A Sense Of Meaningfulness
In order for employees to be more vocal about grievances, concerns, ideas, etc., the work environment must be mutual and promote a sense of meaningfulness. The measure of a successful manager-employee relationship is rooted in effective communication. The absence of communication leads to role ambiguity which could result in role conflict.
9. Ensure Psychological Safety
Everyone wants to be heard and understood. When looking to engage with employees, give the way you wish to receive—openly, honestly and respectfully. How are you ensuring the conditions of the environment feel psychologically safe for your team to openly communicate? If you’re not sure, ask your team from a place of humility and demonstrate humility by your openness to receive without judgment.
10. Work To Create Trust
Employees will be more vocal about grievances, concerns, struggles, ideas and more when they trust their managers. Trust is at the foundation of a strong employee-manager relationship. When managers show they actually listen and take to heart the feedback, it helps teams and the company as a whole. Trust is also at the heart of building better relationships. Developing trust is the answer!
11. Lead By Example
A key objective of management should be to create a workplace in which staffers feel comfortable sharing concerns or ideas without fear of ridicule or retaliation. Leaders can lay the groundwork by voicing honest feedback or concerns with workers, leading by example and demonstrating that all opinions are valued.
12. View Complaints As Data
As a manager, it’s hard to have to deal with complaints that often seem unfounded, especially when you’re trying your best to make things work well. However, if you view complaints as data points and get curious about the information behind the complaint, you’ll learn valuable information about the inside operations of your business. Be curious, ask questions and ask for suggestions for improvement.
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